Mac Mini vs. iMac

The Mac mini's price has crept into iMac territory. So how do they compare?

Apple Mac Mini 2018
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

iMac, Mac mini, MacBook Pro, or MacBook Air, there are a lot of different Macs to choose from at Apple. We previously stacked the new MacBook Air against the MacBook Pro, but now it is time to turn attention to Apple’s desktop counterparts.

In this guide we now put up the specs on the newest refreshed Mac mini against the iMac. We would have never compared these two in the past, but thanks to the price jump on the new Mac mini, there’s now some overlap in configurations. Weighing in features like design, and performance, and our overall review of the new Mac Mini, we’ll help you decide which is right for your set up at work or home.


Apple Mac Mini 2018
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Both the iMac and Mac mini are made of aluminum and are designed as desktops, but the form factor could not be more different between the two. At 2.9 pounds and 1.4 inches in thickness, the Mac mini is a thin slab of metal that is similar to a super compact cable box.

A highlight for us in our review, the Mac mini is very ideal for sitting under a monitor or at the side of a desk. It easily stays out of the way in places with limited space and the fans are quiet as a whisper. Great as that is, the sleek Space Gray aluminum design doesn’t account for monitors or keyboards, all of which need to be purchased separately.

The iMac contrasts to the Mac mini since is an all-in-one computing solution. The base iMac model ends up coming at 17.7 inches tall, and 20.8 inches in width, but a 27-inch model is also available. It also packs a 21.5-inch display with 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, whereas the Retina 4K model packs a display with 4,096 x 2,304 resolution. A separate 27-inch model also packs a Retina 5K display for 5,120 x 2,880 resolution. Apple even includes both a Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse 2 in the box, keeping you from separate purchases.

Some professionals might prefer the iMac for its display and all-in-one design, but the Mac mini remains a bit more enticing since it can be plugged into an existing setup.


apple imac retina 5k display 2017 hero4
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Apple revamped the Mac mini with new internals to make it a better buy against the yet to be updated iMacs. The base $800 Mac mini model ships with an 8th-gen Intel Core i3 quad-core processor clocked at 3.6 GHz. It also comes with 8GB of RAM and a 128 GB PCIe-based SSD onboard. The drive is super fast and hits a read speed of 2,753MB/s and a write speed of 1,238MB/s in our file transfer testing. That is double the speeds on similar SSDs in the other desktops which we have tested before, and much faster than the SATA drives on the iMac.

For more processing power, a Mac mini model with a six-core 8th-gen Intel Core i5 processor clocked at 3.0GHz is also available for $1,100. This is the model we reviewed, and where the Mac mini crosses into iMac territory. It scored 5,236 in Geekbench 4 single-core testing, and then 20,432 in multi-core testing. Higher numbers are always better in this test which taxes the processor with real-world tasks. Compared to the 4,775 single core score, and the 14,017 multi-core scores on the iMac, the new 8th generation processors onboard the Mac mini clearly make it a powerful machine.

In all models of the Mac mini, up to 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB RAM can also be added, and there are options for configurations for 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB SSDs. There is still no dedicated graphics, though, and all Mac mini models ship with Intel UHD Graphics 630. That means gaming is out of the picture on the Mac mini. In our testing, Rocket League wasn’t smooth enough to enjoy playing at performance quality settings and 1080p resolution. Even worse, a more demanding game like Civilization VI was hopeless and didn’t play at enjoyable framerates.

iMac models, however, are still stuck on the 7th-gen Intel processors and a much slower 1TB SATA drive as stock options. A base $1,100 iMac comes with dual-core 2.3GHz dual‑core Intel Core i5 processor clocked at 2.3GHz. There are also options for quad‑core Intel Core i5 processors clocked at 3.0GHz, but these are only on the Retina models and will bump the pricing up to $1,300. That is far off from the same specs on the $1,100 for the Mac Mini.

Keep in mind, those Retina iMac models include dedicated graphics — Radeon Pro 555 with 2GB video memory—whereas the base model iMacs come with integrated Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640. Either way, the older SATA drives on these iMacs are slow and might make MacOS feel sluggish, especially if you’re not wanting to spend $200 for a model with an SSD “Fusion” drive.

Starting at $800 and equipped with newer and faster eighth-generation quad-core processors, vs the dual-core seventh $1,000 iMac, the Mac Mini presents more processing power. There’s also the bonus of each iMac coming with SSDs, instead of slower SATA drives. Sure, there is still no dedicated graphics on board the Mac Mini, and a monitor will need to be purchased separately, but the jump in the processor is well worth it for heavy multitasking.


apple imac retina 5k display 2017 stand2
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Apple has always embraced USB-C, and the ports on board both the Mac Mini and the iMac make that no different. Onboard the Mac Mini are four Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI 2.0 port, Ethernet port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The iMac keeps a similar range of ports, including four USB 3.0 ports, Two Thunderbolt 3 USB ports, Ethernet port, and an SDXC card slot.

It is hard to choose since all these ports are modern, but the win might just have to go to the iMac for its ports. Creatives are known for using Macs, and the lack of the SDXC card slot means that many might have to turn to a dongle to transfer photos and other content. It is a slight inconvenience that might be a deciding factor for some.

Buy the Mac mini, unless you’re going big

Apple Mac Mini 2018
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

At the end of the day, the $800 Mac mini is worth more than a $1,100 iMac. For those looking for a Mac with serious multitasking and processing power, the eighth generation Intel Core i3 quad-core processor clocked at 3.6 GHz and SSDs presents more power for the punch than the dual-core chips and SATA drives on board the iMacs.

The higher-end iMacs are well worth the money, but the base models won’t be worth buying again until they’ve been updated with some faster components.

Product Review

The MacBook Air plays the oldies we love, but the band is getting old

We’ve waited for a long time for an update to the MacBook Air, and Apple finally delivered one. With a lot of features ported over from the MacBook Pro, is this new laptop what Apple fans have always wanted?

Should you buy the affordable MacBook Air, or is the MacBook Pro worth the price?

Though they both share Retina Displays and similar keyboards, there are still some specs differences and other changes which distinguish the new 2018 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. In this guide, we stack the two up against each other.

The best MacBook deals for November 2018

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.
Product Review

This is the best budget laptop you can buy

One of our favorite laptops, the Asus Zenbook UX330UA, has been updated to feature the 8th-gen Intel Core CPU. It's still the best budget laptop on the market, offering great battery life and zippy performance at a discounted price.

Turn your iPad into a display for your new Mac Mini with this workaround

The folks at Luna Display have figured out a workaround which lets you get the best of both worlds and use Wi-Fi and an adapter in order to turn your iPad into a display for the 2018 Mac Mini.

Latest SMS breach could allow hackers access to your online accounts

A new security breach that exposed more than 26 million text messages could be a huge nightmare for users relying on two-factor authentication. Many of the SMS on the database contained security codes and account reset links.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 Mail client goes freemium with the introduction of ads

Microsoft Windows Insiders are finding a nasty surprise inside the Mail app on the latest Windows 10 preview build in the form of banner ads. These ads will appear in the Mail app regardless of the webmail service you use.

All the best Apple MacBook deals for Black Friday 2018

Shoppers looking for a new Apple laptop could find huge savings on a new MacBook come Black Friday. Retailers are offering discounts as much as $650 on select MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro models this holiday season.

Apple discontinues AirPort Extreme, Time Capsule as it exits Wi-Fi router business

Apple is now officially no longer in the router business. The company had already stopped selling the AirPort Express, and now its retail stores and websites have stopped offering the AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule.

Secure your Excel documents with a password by following these quick steps

Excel documents are used by people and businesses all over the world. Given how often they contain sensitive information, it makes sense to keep them from the wrong eyes. Thankfully, it's easy to secure them with a password.

Lost your router? Here's how to find its IP address to help track it down

Changing the login information for your router isn't always easy, that's why so many have that little card on the back. But in order to use it, you need to know where to go. Here's how to find the IP address of your router.

PDF to JPG conversion is quick and easy using these simple methods

Converting file formats can be an absolute pain, but it doesn't have to be. We've put together a comprehensive guide on how to convert a PDF to JPG, no matter which operating system you're running.

Crypto hangover could take blame for Nvidia’s potential GeForce RTX 2060 delay

Nvidia's delay in announcing a ship date for its GeForce RTX 2060 GPU could be due to a burst in the cryptocurrency mining bubble. Executives blamed the crypto hangover for an oversupply of inventory on existing GTX 1060 cards,

Save $900 on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and more with Lenovo’s Cyber Monday sales

In the latest set of holiday sales, Lenovo is heavily discounting its fifth-generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon and other popular Windows laptops and 2-in-1s for the holiday shopping season.